Clarksville, Ark. --- Two University of the Ozarks alumni, Lauren Christy, of Kittanning, Penn., and Brittney Flinn, of Hagarville, Ark., received their Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law during commencement ceremonies held May 21 in Fayetteville.
Christy and Flinn both graduated from Ozarks in 2008 with a B.S. degree in Political Science.
“When I came to Ozarks for my freshman scheduling, my advisor suggested I try the political science pre-law track because it would be challenging,” Christy recalled. “So I took a couple classes with Dr. Dippel and loved it – and here I am.”
From right to left: Lauren Christy, 2010-2011 Women’s Law Student Association President, with Debbie Dudley Branson, Recipient of the Gayle Pettus Pontz Award and Tiffany White, 2011-2012 Women’s Law Student Association President.
“I don’t know that there is a lot that can totally prepare you for your first year of law school,” she said. “All the horror stories are true. The professors, reading assignments, and exams are not exactly like anything you experience in undergrad. However, I think I was ahead of the curve.”
She specifically credits Ozarks Professor of Political Science Dr. Stewart Dippel for helping her prepare for law school. “I was extremely grateful that I had taken classes like Criminal Law and Constitutional Law with Dr. Dippel before coming to law school. Those classes gave me the basics while everyone else in my class panicked out about not knowing how to write case briefs.”
Flinn also credits her professors at Ozarks for preparing her for graduate level work. “After taking American National Government with Dr. Dippel, I realized how passionate I was for politics, the rule of law, and the role it all plays in contemporary society,” she said. “I ended up taking every class that I could under both Dr. Dippel and Dr. Gilbert Parks (Ozarks Associate Professor of Political Science), along with many from Dr. Greta Marlow (Ozarks Professor of Communication). She named three classes in particular that proved helpful in preparing for law school – Dr. Dippel’s “Criminal and Constitutional Law,” Dr. Parks’ “Public Policy,” and Dr. Marlow’s “Research Methods and Writing.”
“I think many people fail to realize just how important writing is in the legal world,” Flinn said. “Along with case briefing – which is essential for a first year student – I had to write motions, memos in support, letters to clients, and letters to both fellow and opposing attorneys once I began ‘practicing’ and handling my own cases in the Federal Public Defender’s Office as an extern and in the legal clinic as a student attorney.”
While at U of A, Christy served as President of the Women’s Law Student Association and interned at Tyson Foods World Headquarters in Springdale, Ark. “I also worked for Legal Aid of Arkansas for school credit,” she said. “I’m considering going into family law. I just like the idea of being able to help people with things like custody and adoptions, and I’ve taken a mediation class to help me earn certification in that field.”
Brittney Flinn and Dean Cynthia Nance at the Arkansas Bar Foundation Scholarship Dinner.
Flinn plans to go into criminal law. During her final year at U of A, she was approved by the Arkansas Supreme Court as a Rule XV Certified Student Attorney, licensing her to represent juvenile offenders in criminal court with the supervision of a licensed attorney. Over the course of one semester, she represented five clients. “The experience gave me an incredible amount of insight into what it is like to be a practicing attorney,” she says, “including the frustration!”
Both graduates have some words of advice for students considering law school.
“Take classes that involved giving speeches or public speaking, because appearing confident in what you’re saying in law school seems to be half the battle,” Christy said. “I would recommend students considering law school take English or literature classes and public speaking, beyond the political science courses, to develop their speaking skills and eloquence.”
Flinn said, “Being a lawyer is not just what you see on television. There are many different areas of the law, many variations and interpretations of the law in different states, and many options for building a career out of a law degree. But no matter what direction you go, remember that getting the basics down means more than you can possibly imagine. Never underestimate the importance of case briefing, of reading, and of writing – all of which sounds really basic, but it’s the kind of things that have a big impact once you get there.”
Christy and Flinn are currently preparing to sit for the Arkansas bar examination.